The Right Exercise Intensity
By Lynn Bode
all heard the exercise guidelines that recommend
we participate in 30 minutes of moderate intensity
physical activity 3-5 times per week. That seems
easy enough to implement. But is it? The duration
and frequency guidelines are straightforward
and clearly defined. However, "moderate"
intensity is often left to interpretation. How
do we define "moderate"?
we need to understand that the definition of
moderate intensity varies from one individual
to another. For example, a well-trained athlete
may be in the moderate zone when running 5 miles
in 30 minutes. Yet, for a novice exerciser who
is overweight, moderate means walking one mile
in 30 minutes.
let this confuse you. While the intensity level
is very critical in the overall guideline, fortunately
it's also fairly easily identified. The ACSM
(American College of Sports Medicine) defines
moderate as an intensity of 40 percent to 60
percent VO2 maximum.
since most of us don't know how to determine
our VO2 maximum, there are easier definitions
can base VO2 loosely on your maximum target
heart rate zone. A VO2 maximum of 40-60% equates
to about 50 to 70 percent of maximum heart rate
(MHR). And determining your MHR and the corresponding
percent zones is relatively simple. Below is
an easy way to calculate your specific MHR,
and what 50-70 percent equates to.
Heart Rate Zone
220 and subtract your age. This equals your
MHR. (Example: For a 30 year old your MHR
to determine your low range of 50 percent,
simply take 190 and multiply it times 50
percent. (Example: For a 30 year old this
to determine your high range of 70 percent,
simply take 190 and multiply it times 70
percent. (Example: For a 30 year old this
would equal 133).'
this example, the 30 year-old would want to
exercise in a heart rate range of somewhere
between 95 to 133 BPM. Keep in mind that this
calculation is age-related. It does not take
into consideration your fitness level. So, it
is not completely accurate, but still a good
guideline. For an even more accurate (and more
complicated) method for determining your training
intensity range, visit this link: http://www.workoutsforyou.com/intensity.htm
Also, some medications can raise or lower your
heart rate and change the heart's response to
exercise. Beta-blockers are among those that
alter the heart rate. This means that people
taking these types of prescriptions should probably
use another option for monitoring their intensity.
are some other very good ways to measure intensity
for both people taking medications or those
just looking for a more convenient method. Two
good options are the Ratings of Perceived Exertion
(RPE) method and the Talk Test.
This takes into account what the exerciser perceives
in terms of exercise fatigue and it correlates
well with cardio-respiratory and metabolic factors
like heart rate and overall fatigue. The RPE
scale starts with 0 and ends with 10. A rating
of 0 equates to doing nothing, being at rest.
A rating of 10 is equal to maximum effort, working
very, very hard. For moderate intensity, an
exerciser should strive for reaching somewhere
between a 4-6, which the scale defines as a
somewhat hard to a hard effort.
A great way to measure intensity (where appropriate),
is utilizing both the RPE and Target Heart Rate
Zone. The exerciser should identify where they
fall on the RPE scale when their heart rate
is between 50 - 70% maximum. This will allow
them to accurately use only the RPE scale for
measuring intensity when it is not feasible
to determine their THR.
The final method for measuring exercise intensity
is the Talk Test. Like the RPE, the talk test
is subjective. The exerciser simply ensures
that he works out at a level where he can carry
on a comfortable conversation. He should be
able to breathe comfortably during exercise.
In simple terms, the exerciser would be working
out too hard if he has to take a breath between
every word he says. On the flip side, he would
be exercising at too easy of an intensity if
he could sing several phrases of a song without
you know how to define "moderate"
and that means you don't have any more excuses.
It's time to get moving. Keep in mind that the
ACSM guidelines are minimum recommendations.
For more significant health improvements and/or
weight loss or for more advanced exercises,
consider increasing any part of the three recommendations
found in their guideline.
Lynn Bode, is a certified personal trainer
specializing in Internet-based fitness programs.
She founded Workouts For You. Visit: http://www.workoutsforyou.com
for a free sample workout and to sign-up for
their monthly fitness newsletter. Workouts
For You provides affordable online exercise
programs custom designed for each individual.